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        Martin Walker-Watson


 

 

 

            My first art residency in the Himalayas was for 8 years between 1974 and 1982. Studying in Dharamsala, I made pilgrimages to sacred sites and set-up a photo studio specialising in thankas and gompas. Dharamsala was a quiet little town in those days but I had extraordinary neighbours and teachers. Geshe Rabten lived at the bottom of the garden, Ling Rinpoche next door, and Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche were busy setting up Tushita. I studied the basics of grids and drawing Buddhas. Yishin Norbu, His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggested a Burmese meditation course would be helpful, and so there followed for me a period as an ordained Theravada monk in what was then Rangoon, Burma.   

            I made my way on to California and then the Cayman Islands in the West Indies. For 10 years I worked in the jewellery business for a goldsmith specializing in salvaged coins from shipwrecks and high-end custom made jewellery. My Dharma studies continued with the Kalachakra initiation in Los Angeles 1989, and not long after I was invited to assist with the gilding of stupas and Buddha thrones in Australia, the U.S. and in Europe.

           My second extended residency, again in Dharamsala was for 6 years from the mid 1990’s to the early 2000s. I established the Gilding Arts Studio on Upper Dharamkot and started taking commissions to gild precious Holy Objects. I renovated the old shepherd’s cottage where I had spent many years in retreat, and ran jeep-safaris to Lahaul, Spiti, Kinnaur as well as Ladakh and Kashmir. After my marriage to Mary we moved to Bruny Island in Southern Tasmania.


          My third extended residency in the Himalayas was from 2008. We spent a year in Lhasa as Mary was running a Maternal and Child Health NGO, and then another 4 years in Nepal. I had set up my studio in Lhasa gilding tsa tsa and visited many of the art workshops creating the new statues for the reconstructed gompas. In 2009 we moved the NGO to Nepal and continued our work there. I started to work with the metal workers in Kathmandu, partnering with the Shakya brothers in Patan. We would design the work with drawings somewhat similar to the initial stage of painting a thanka. The form would be crafted by hand in copper repoussé and I would then gild these sculptures with gold-leaf and finally Open the Eyes. Some pieces have taken many hundred of hours to complete.


         My first solo exhibition called Sacred Buddhist Art for the 21st Century was held in Dharamsala in 2010 at the Peak Art Gallery. The Artworks on display here today in the Parlour Gallery of Kickstart Arts are the result of that collaboration with the repoussé craftsmen of Patan. My studio is on Bruny Island, south of Hobart.

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